House! Techno! Sozzled psychedelic drone!: September’s ten must-hear reissues and retrospectives
Thanks to the graft of reissue labels and canny collectors, there’s an embarrassment of neglected, forgotten or misunderstood material being unearthed week by week.
The volume of new-old music doesn’t outpace new-new music, of course, but it’s not too far behind either. With so many more archival releases turning up on shelves, we’ve worked though the stacks to pick our favourite reissues and retrospectives of the last two months.
September, you spoil us: hard-to-find Drexciyan business back on vinyl; breakneck Senegalese mbalax; brilliantly damaged psych-rock from 1971; and an all-time techno classic, newly scrubbed up for a new generation.
Alternatively, check out our best reissues of 2013 rundown.
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BART Vol. 2
San Fran label Dark Entries seriously impressed with their 2013 Patrick Cowley pornospective School Daze, and they last graced these pages with Crash Course in Science’s electroshocked 1981 EP Signals From Pier Thirteen. Back in its salad days (the antediluvian wilds of 2011), the label put out BART – a collection of deep cuts from the San Fran ‘70s/‘80s electro-rock underground. Named after the train which chugs through the city, it was a treasure trove of crackpot scuzz, and some of the compilation standout players (most notably The Units) have undergone proper critical reappraisal since.
Arriving three years later, BART Vol. 2 mines similar soil, but it’s the superior collection – more varied, and substantially weirder. Some moderately well known acts have made the cut this time around: fiercely prolific art ensemble Tuxedomoon contribute the loping ‘Day to Day’, and Chrome’s galloping ‘Meet You In The Subway’ makes an early appearance. But, predictably, it’s the hidden gems that make the biggest impression: Zru Vogue’s ‘Nakweda Dream’, a lude-ic take on Byrdsian jangle; Baby Buddha’s poker-faced psychoschlock; and Ki Di Me’s ‘Islamatic’, which mustn’t – repeat, mustn’t – be consumed too close to bedtime.
All tracks have been remastered for the purpose, and the disc comes with a 12-page book featuring paraphernalia from each band’s archive. The label have also released a 2xCD package bundling BART Vol .2 with its predecessor; taken as a complete package, it’s an essential collection of post-punk scuzz and charmed grot.
The Opening of the Cerebral Gate
One of a clutch of stunning post-millennial releases from the Drexciya aquaplex (see also: Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe, Wireless Internet, The Cosmic Memoirs of the Late Great Rupert J. Rosinthrope), and one of James Stinson’s final Dimensional Waves Transmissions prior to his death in 2002. First released on Tresor’s short-lived offshoot Supremat, The Opening of the Cerebral Gate has been subject to Discogs inflation ever since – and this reissue bring it back in reach of the mere mortal.
As ever with Stinson, whipcrack electro is the default mode, but Opening… might be the crispest, cleanest project in his catalogue. There are ornery moments (romper stomper ‘War Of The Clones’), but, for the most part, the music here is taut, chattering, and lustrous. ‘Walking With Clouds’ and ‘Cerebral Cortex Malfunction’ flink and shimmer like a shattered glitter ball; ‘Do You Want To Get Down’ pushes Drexciyan groove through a French Touch filter. This being Stinson, though, there’s a pulse beneath the chrome – the stunning ‘Dimensional Glide’ sits up there with Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe’s most soulful moments.
Tresor’s new release brings Opening… onto 3xLP vinyl for the first time, and sees previous CD-only bonus material arrive on wax for the first time. The record’s accompanying EP, Mind Over Positive And Negative Dimensional Matter, has also been given a reboot.
(Lysergia / Subliminal Sounds)
That smell? The whiff of sautéed grey matter. Subliminal Sounds are pitching this LP as “one of the great lost grails of the NYC freak underground” – usually shorthand for “this is dross” – but Madrigal’s self-titled 1971 LP walks the walk.
Privately pressed in an edition of about 50 copies, Madrigal collects a series of (mostly) single-take recordings by the New York group – a mysterious double-act working with guitars, oscillators, a muffled drum machine, and, one can only assume, a well stocked armoury of Jungian neuroses. Songs fall into two camps: wonky, pretty folk-rock numbers; and extended passages of sozzled psychedelic drone. The former are strong, but its Madrigal’s freakier passages that elevate this LP to the ranks of the exceptional. ‘Stoned Freakout’ is particularly fantastic, an experimental am-jam full of throttled screams and squealing electronics, and a very early precursor to The Shadow Ring, Hype Williams et al.
This new edition has been freshly remastered with new liner notes, and has been sent tottering into the world in a limited edition of 500.
ABY NGANA DIOP
(Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Another R&R cap for Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa label, dab hands at snouting out old African releases with appeal beyond the Womad constituency. Following last year’s reissue of Penny Penny’s fab Shaka Bundu, ATFA have thrown their weight behind Aby Ngana Diop, a legendary exponent of Senegal’s vigorous taasu vocal technique – exhortatory patterned chanting occasionally pegged as an accidental precursor to rap music.
Originally released c. 1994, Liital sees Diop toasting over instrumentals in a mbalax style – a fusion of local sabar drumming music with Afrobeat funk. Which, in practice, makes for fabulously ragged party music, with Diop hollering herself hoarse over walloping percussion loops. There’s a general air of block party exuberance throughout, but, at its heart, this is rough, tough stuff (Cut Hands and Ninos Du Brasil’s recent releases spring to mind). Shimkovitz has even suggested a link with darkside jungle – and, given Liital‘s beefy polyrhythmic percussion work and general air of raucousness, it’s not a totally fanciful comparison.
Pharmacist by day, analogue synth hoarder by night, Lorenz put out a string of private releases on his Syncord imprint from the 1970s up until his death in 2000. Released in 1983, Invisible Voices is the German’s debut album proper, and trades in stately cosmic grandeur (Sven Grünberg’s FACT-approved rarity Hingus, springs – or, rather, ominously descends – to mind).
Invisible Voices synth compositions are, for the most part, bright and widescreen, an effect accentuated by Anthology’s glossy remaster job. These pieces might be rooted in New Age (note ‘Out Of The Past’’s lapping waves and hippy-dippy melody), but Lorenz is more interested in high drama than giving your inner child a cuddle. Not all of Invisible Voices is strong enough to differentiate it from the wave of DIY synth reissues flooding the market, but it’s got a cracker of a second half: ‘Summer with Sonja’ is upwardly mobile early electro; ‘Flight Over Greenland’ is an explosion of colour and cheer; and curveball closer ‘Lost Day’ suggets that, in another world, Lorenz might have found a happy home on Ata Tak.
Legions of disenfranchised house uncles cheered the arrival of Terry Farley’s impressive and authoritative 2013 Acid Rain compilation – a chunky 5xCD collection of early and classic house, and a corrective to the gelded, spiritless 4×4 which was starting to make chart in-roads. In 2014, preening pop-house reigns supreme, so expect Acid Thunder to enjoy a similarly warm reception.
Where Acid Rain was essentially a beginner’s primer, Acid Thunder (named after Fast Eddie’s 1988 12” for DJ International, which doesn’t feature) is a bit more of a spotter’s guide, more focused on dredging up rarities or drawing unexpected links. Much as Acid Rain raided the Trax archives, Acid Thunder gives particular priority to DJ International releases (as Farley told us during our recent Rave Week festivities, licensing both for the same compilation had proved all but impossible). As such, it’s a deeper and more urbane collection, tilted more towards the Marshall Jefferson / Frankie Knuckles / Bobby Konders end of the spectrum.
Sleeve notes come from Jacob Arnold of the House Music website, a bumper booklet collects a mix of of rave-era photography and paraphanelia, and, as per Acid Rain, the whole thing arrives in a sturdy clamshell box. Should keep you going, until the next one at least.
The Wild Bull
Subotnick’s a towering figure in the development of electronic music: he studied at the storied Mills College in Oakland, alongside the likes of Steve Reich and Terry Riley; he helped establish the influential San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 1960s; and, most notaby, he produced 1967’s Silver Apples of the Moon – the first long-form electronic music recording commissioned by a major label.
Even casual electronic music historians will be very familiar with that album – a splattershot symphony of electronic tones – but less attention has been lavished on its immediate follow-up. Like its predecessor, 1968’s The Wild Bull stretches the then-novel Buchla modular system (and its sequencing capacities in particular) to its limits, but it’s a much more obstreperous proposition than Silver Apples… Inspired by ancient Sumerian poetry, it’s a mystic and morbid piece, full of brooding legato passages and teeth-on-edge jangles. Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, it’s also prone to sudden accesses of energy, with gloomy drones abruptly giving way to torrents of electronic noise.
Karlrecords’ reissue is the first to restore the record to vinyl; there’s only 500 of the brutes, so tarry at your peril.
Into the Heart of Love
And so we bang the Woo drum once again. Clive and Mark Ives’ output has been enjoying a resurgence for a few years now: Drag City put out made the first move with a 2012 repress of It’s Cosy Inside; Emotional Response’s reissue of 1982’s Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong was one of our absolute favourites of last year; and this spring saw the arrival of long-lost LP When The Past Arrives. All offered tickets to an instantly recognisable soundworld – reverb-heavy chamber pop, spotted with woodwind and manipulated tape noise – and this reissue of 1990 cassette Into The Heart of Love takes us back to pleasantly familiar territory.
Emotional Rescue are pushing Into The Heart of Love as the band’s acknowledged “masterpiece”. We’re not sure that’s the case, but it’s certainly more accomplished than most Woo records, with a heavier emphasis on the folky aspects of their songwriting and a lingering sense of prettiness. Even if it lacks some of Whichever Way’s unpredictability, the mood is Woo through and through – drowsy pastoral, all crackling hearths and flagons of spiced cider.
This LP edition marks the album’s first outing on vinyl, and Woo’s Clive Ives has remastered the album for the purpose. Needless to say, it’s very much recommended.
Big beast incoming! At the risk of stating the obvious, Joey Beltram’s first (but not only) gamechanger is one of techno’s great set texts: one of the first tracks to convert acid house’s gaudiness and effervescence into something altogether darker and surlier, to channel the frantic into the antic.
R&S, smelling demand, have given the 1991 track a proper 12″ reissue; freshly remastered by Matt Colton, this new version is “cut nice and loud”. You know the cues already: darkly propulsive bass thud; strafing laser fire; that eerie cascading tagline; and, of course, “ecstasy, ecstasy, ecstasy, ecstasy…”
The Spacey Bruce Lacey
This dinky blurb isn’t anywhere near sufficient to go into the life and times of Bruce Lacey: screwball painter and sculptor, performance artist, renegade film (and mischief) maker, and collaborator with the Beatles, Lenny Bruce and Throbbing Gristle, amongst others. We’ll limit our breif investigations to this collection of his sound work, compiled by Trunk (who, following their 2013 compilation of music by fellow eccentric Jeff Keen, are definitely the folks for the job).
Some short soundtrack works (most inspired by stone circle formations) feature: Everybody’s Nobody, a queer musique concrète piece made from blown bottles and junkyard percussion; his gorgeous phased synth-work for Double Exposure; and the aggressive, discordant Kissing Film. A second instalment is also out, featuring more works of off-kilter tomfoolery, and is well worth a snoop.